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Muscle Hill sired Group/Listed winners on either side of the Tasman last Friday (March 20). Star three-year-old filly Vacation Hill, after being eighth at the bell and three deep for the last 700 metres, proved too strong in the Group 2 $50,000 NZ Trotting Oaks at Addington. Tailored Elegance (by Muscle Hill) was a close third. The mile rate was 1:59.7 - the last 800 in a stunning 57.9 and 400 in 28.5. Vacation Hill has won two races and been five times placed from 12 starts for $41,622 in stakes. Bred by Bruce Hutton, the filly is out of the Dream Vacation mare Vacanza Tr 1:59.8 (5 wins) and her first produce to race. Vacation Hill winning at Addington Elite Stride, a three-year-old colt by Muscle Hill, blitzed his opposition in the Gold Coronet at Bathurst. After settling down third, the brilliant colt was sent to the top in the back straight and won as he liked by 12 metres. Fox Trot Hill (by Muscle Hill) finished third. The mile rate was 1:58.1 with the last two fractions in 28.8 and 28.9. Elite Stride winning at Bathurst The winner of four of his five starts, Elite Stride was bred and is raced by Emilio and Mary Rosati and is the first foal of the American-bred mare Real Babe USA Tr 1:52.4 ($386,103). He is a really good youngster. Muscle Hill is one of the strong Stallions Australasia frozen semen roster.   By Peter Wharton

Ray Green is confident the next big thing of New Zealand pacing will be staying put here. But he wouldn’t mind sneaking Copy That across to Australia this winter to show the Aussie how good he is. The South Auckland pacer bounced back from his luckless defeat in the Northern Derby two weeks ago with a bullying win in the Flying Stakes at Addington on Friday night, refusing to be parked out by arch rival One Change at the bell and once he got to the lead he never looked like being beaten. He cruised the last 800m in 56.3 in the hands of new driver Blair Orange to beat One Change again, as he has every time they have met since Cup week, with early leader Minstrel a strong third and Heroes Square losing few fans in fourth. Bad To The Bone, who got pushed back in the inner, was an eyecatching fifth. The win saw Copy That promoted to $2.50 favouritism for the NZ Derby back at Addington in two weeks but Green is already thinking further ahead and further afield. “He was great tonight, he really is a very good horse with a big motor,” says the popular trainer. “I know he was beaten up north but I think he did a good job to run second after losing momentum.”Green says safely through the Derby, Green will return north for the Jewels at Cambridge on May 30, by which time everybody is hoping the world feels a little more normal. Then Green wants to take Copy That to Australia, travel restrictions allowing of course, for a two-race Queenland campaign that he hopes will include the new A$250,000 Rising Sun. The new three and four-year-old race will be held at Albion Park on July 18 with two three-year-olds to be invited and get preferential draws. Should one of them win they would get a $100,000 bonus and Green likes the sound of that. “So ideally that is what we would like to do providing these restrictions are eventually lifted.” Copy That is owned in Victoria by Merv and Meg Butterworth and while many of their horses eventually end up being trained there, Green hopes Copy That can stay here next season and beyond. “It think for good horses, horses as good as him, there is just as good a money here and they can head to Australia to race when needed. “Merv and Meg have been great and have never made any noise about him racing over there full time so I’d love to see him stay here.” While Copy That surprised nobody with his win Friday night’s two main trotting winners One Apollo (Four and Five-Year-Old Championship) and Vacation Hill (Trotting Oaks) did sting punters. One Apollo has always looked an open class horse but few would have seen him beating the Inter Dominion champion in Winterfell, especially coming from behind him to do it. Winterfell, who started off a 30m handicap, surged to the front down the back straight but wasn’t trotting perfectly squarely on the home bend and One Apollo wore him down the hands of Gerard O’Reilly. It was the seventh career win for the son of One Over Da Moon and his fourth this season for trainer Brent White, although not his richest as they won the Sales Series Trot at Addington during his two-year-old career. Vacation Hill gave driver Samantha Ottley her biggest trotting win in the Oaks as she came from behind hot favourite Tailored Elegance to beat her fair and square. “I don’t think I have won a lot of big trotting races before,” said Ottley. “So to even get a drive in any Oaks or Derby, for trotters of pacers, is a big deal. “Kevin (Townley, trainer) has always had really big opinion of her and she had just kept getting better and better.”The night’s other feature, the Superstars, was over the second hot favourite Another Masterpiece strode to the front at the bell as he held off the big late charge of Triple Eight.   Michael Guerin

One of the last bastions of harness racing action at the moment is New Zealand. Currently the country has a “closed door” meeting policy which aims to limit potential harm to the industry and allows the racing action to continue. The government closed all borders to foreign nationals on Thursday night with "mercy flights" to retrieve Kiwis stranded overseas a possibility in weeks to come.     Despite the major disruptions to normal life a premier card featuring a number of Group races was run successfully on Friday night (the 20th of March) at Addington Raceway in Christchurch. The card saw four feature races run and won. All the action can be viewed by clicking on the links provided below.   The first Group race of the night the The Lamb & Hayward Trotting Championship at Group 3 Level ($30’000) proved to be a competitive affair with the Brent White trained One Apollo ultimately prevailing at odds of 10/1 over the race favourite in Winterfell. A telling,sustained bid 800m out from home by both runners set up a home-straight battle but it was son of One Over Da Moon who proved the stronger late. The trifecta was made by Overzealous, a horse known for it’s noticeable grey coat and passionate ownership group. Watch the race here      The “What The Hill” New Zealand Trotting Oaks (Mobile trot) Group 2 Level ($50’000) saw trotting fillies go to the line. It was won well by the Kevin Townley trained Vacation Hill, a striking looking filly by Muscle Hill. A patient drive by Samantha Ottley early was followed by a 3 wide move 600m out from the post with the filly giving more than enough in the run home to score nicely over Chevron Action who had moved to the front of the race a lap out from home. The All Stars trained Tailored Elegance filled the trifecta after working early to the front then finding the trail. Watch the race here   The Vero Flying Stakes (Mobile Pace) Group 2 ($50’000) saw some of the very best 3yr olds in the country go to war over the 1980m distance. Early speed from behind the mobile gate by Minstrel meant race favourite One Change (who had drawn the inside #1 barrier) had to work around to get the lead back, Copy That, driven by Blair Orange forged around them thereafter to take the lead with a lap to go, Heroes Square, driven confidently by Tim Williams, joined the party with 800m to go after a back-straight move to outside of the speed. The final furlong proved a close run thing but the Ray Green trained Copy That proved his class by kicking strongly and holding out One Change and the fast finishing Minstrel. Bad To The Bone and Heroes Square lost no admirers with their efforts either while Willison, who was off the speed throughout, also found the line with some purpose. All-in-all a good barometer of respective abilities as these horses head towards the Derby. Watch the race here   The First Direct Taxis Superstars Championship (Mobile Pace) Group 2 level ($50’000) rounded out the feature races for the night and was won by the All Stars trained Another Masterpiece who wrestled control of the race after moving to the front with a lap to go. His good kick ensuring a strong win from the fast closing Triple Eight and a game Nandolo who had to sit parked for the early part of the race and bested Franco Santino in the shadow of the post for a minor share of the prize.  Watch the race here    New Zealand based harness fans will be hoping that the quality racing can continue in the coming weeks despite the trying conditions. Hooves and fingers crossed.     Ben McMillan    

By Jonny Turner    Exciting 3yr-old Heroes Square will face his toughest test after drawing wide in tonight’s group 2 Flying Stakes at Addington. The Robert Dunn trained pacer has announced himself a serious New Zealand Derby contender with three highly impressive wins in his first three starts. Heroes Square will almost certainly have to call on all of his class if he is to keep his unbeaten record intact in tonight’S 1980m feature. Drawing the outside of the front line in barrier 9 means the 3yr-old and driver Tim Williams have a huge task in front of them. “It is going to be very tough for him from that draw,” Dunn said. “Tim will have to go back with him and try to get in to it.” Williams will fill in for Dunn’s son John, who was among a number of leading drivers stood down yesterday as a precautionary measure in response to the COVID19 pandemic. The group, which includes Mark Purdon and Zac Butcher, have been excluded from racing until Tuesday because they have returned from Australia recently. Heroes Square will be in good company on the outside of the mobile arm, with leading 3yr-old Copy That starting alongside him. The Ray Green trained pacer will start from barrier 8 for new driver Blair Orange. While there are some doubts over whether Heroes Square can give his main rivals a head start from his wide draw, there is no doubting the horse’s ability. And though the Art Major pacer has only burst on to the 3yr-old pacing scene recently, his trainer has know of his class for some time. “We have always thought a lot of him, but he had joint problem as a 2yr-old.” “We sent up to Matamata for a scintigraphy test and they found a wee problem in a fetlock.” “He is a very nice horse and I think he will measure up with the best 3yr-olds.” “Especially on his last win, it was very impressive.” Heroes Square beat Flying Stakes rivals Minstrel, Skippys Delight and Burnham Boy in his brilliant last start win in the Johnny Globe Classic at Addington last week. The pacer steps up to race more proven 3yr-olds when clashing with both Copy That and One Change, who has the massive advantage of drawing barrier 1. The Dunn stable also start Tyron’s Bit Of Lemon from barrier 2 with Gavin Smith in the sulky. The pacer should get every opportunity is his first test against the country’s top 3yr-olds from his handy draw. “It was a good win last time at Invercargill and he is working really well,” Dunn said. “He is a horse that loves getting out there and running those really strong sectionals.” Dunn and Williams will also combine with Henry Hubert in tonight’s Superstars Championship. The 5yr-old’s brilliant fresh up win in the Northern Southland Cup shows he has back at the top of his game following a short spell. However, Henry Hubert may not get the chance to show that tonight’s 1980m feature as he starts from barrier 1 on the second line. “He is really well and working really well, but it is a disastrous draw for him, really,” Dunn said. The conditions for the Superstars Championship also put leading contenders Another Masterpiece and Triple Eight in tricky starting spots in barriers 8 and 9, respectively. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The latest gavelhouse.com Standardbred auction is online now with 23 Lots entered including yearlings, two-year-olds, racehorses and empty and in-foal broodmares.  Bidding is set to close, starting with Lot 1, from 7pm on Wednesday 30 March. Bidding tips Make sure you're registered and your account is set up properly well before the auction is set to close.  Each auction will auto-extend by adding extra time on if a bid is placed in the final 30 seconds. This will happen indefinitely until no further bids are placed and will also add more time onto each of the subsequent Lots.  Use auto-bids to take the stress out of the final countdown and use the refresh button to make sure your page is keeping up with the live auction. If you have any questions about the bidding process please call 09 296 4436 VIEW FULL CATALOGUE Featured Lots Lot 3 THE BIG DANCE A Rocknroll Dance filly from a two win Art Major mare who is a half-sister to recent Western Australian Pacing Cup (Gr.1) winner Mighty Conqueror. Offrered for sale as she did not make reserve at the yearling sale but this has now been adjusted and is circa the service fee.  Sire: A Rocknroll Dance Dam: Danse Macabre Seller: Maverick Location: Christchurch VIEW ONLINE Lot 5 DENIM  A well-bred two-year-old filly by Art Major from the family of Gr.1 New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac. She has been broken in and had one prep and is reported to have worked down to 2.09 for a mile.  Sire: Art Major Dam: Cullens Counsel Seller: Maverick Location: Christchurch VIEW ONLINE Lot 7 FUTURA EASTON  A winner of three from 2000m to 2600m and over $23,000, Futura Easton is by Vantage Master and from the Holmes Hanover mare Joyful Holmes. Well graded, his connections feel a change of scenery would do him good. Well priced for a quick sale. Sire: Vintage Master Dam: Joyful Holmes Seller: Lucus135 Location: Canterbury VIEW ONLINE Lot 20 SLINKY BROMAC A three-in-one package featuring the two-win mare Slinky Bromac with a Rock N Roll Heaven filly at foot and back in foal to the sire. A black print winner herself, Slinky Bromac has produced the black print winner Sketching. Sire: Live Or Die Dam: Shy Melvin Seller: apples Location: Milton VIEW ONLINE Lot 22 TIFFANY BROMAC  A three-in-one package featuring a daughter of the outstanding black print mare Tandias Courage. She has a muscular Captaintreacherous filly at foot and is in foal Always B Mikki.  Sire: Rocknroll Hanover Dam: Tandias Courage Seller: apples Location: Milton VIEW ONLINE      

By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress     A little over three years ago, Dunedin’s Garry Clarke lost his brother Rick to cancer and he decided it was time to make the most of what time he had left. Clarke had just the one horse in American Spirit and after he’d won his fourth race at Forbury Park, trainer Darren Simpson recalls Clarke saying “you’d better get ready to go to the yearling sales”. Little did Simpson know that Clarke would buy eight yearlings for $132,000, and six yearlings for $108,000the next year, and that he would now have 35 horses. Simpson is now effectively Clarke’s private trainer and his last eight wins stretching back to July last year have been with horses owned by Clarke. Simpson concedes he’s not sure he’d still be in the game if it wasn’t for Clarke – his entire racing teamof about a dozen horses at present are owned by him. At best Simpson might still be struggling along winning a few races a season, as he had been doing since starting out in 2002. Instead Simpson was seen winning his first race at Addington last Friday night with a two-year-old trotter in Have No Fear, a $32,000 purchase at the Premier last year. Simpson and Clarke were also represented in the race by the Muscle Mass filly Abundance, who came in a credible fifth after losing ground at the start when going a bit rough. They were two of three sales purchases last year and Clarke bought two more this year. Clarke and Simpson drove to Addington that afternoon and headed back that night, with Makara, Parama and Rockin Road engaged at Wyndham the next day. Havehorsewilltravel, Mach Sheer, Nikasa and Pete’s Dash have been other winners for Clarke and Simpson this season. Havehorsewilltravel has been placed with Brent Mangos and has won three times for him this season, twice at Alexandra Park. Simpson developed Pres The Belle and won seven races with her before she was handed over to the Dunns – she was basically too good for racing down south and travel was in the offing. Have No Fear has some work to do to prove better than her, but he clearly has a very good future. “He’s the most natural trotter I’ve had and has been from day one - he can’t be faulted really,” said Simpson. “He’s well gaited and has good manners – very level headed. “This is only the third time they’ve both been off the place and Abundance is improving with each run. “Robert Anderson broke them in and they’re a credit to him. “Garry had said last year he really wanted to buy a Father Patrick and Have No Fear was the last one. We just liked the look of Abundance.” Abundance and Have No Fear trialed together at Wyndham back in early January and then had a few weeks off. They reappeared for a three-horse trial at Oamaru a couple of weeks ago, where Simpson drove Have No Fear and didn’t push him in running Phil Williamson’s Love You-Sun Mist gelding Leaf Stride to half a head. Last Friday night, Have No Fear led them around for Blair Orange and was comfortably holding Franco Jorik by three-quarters of a length, with the rest five lengths away and headed by the early mistake maker Alluring Tyron. “We’ll get home now and map out a schedule, but I guess the Trotting Stakes (on April 11) might be next.” The Sales race and Sires Stakes are on May 8 and 15. Have No Fear is the latest winner from NZ Trotting Oaks winner Without Fear, a Sundon sister to Fear Factor, the dam of Prince Fearless and Stress Factor. Most of Clarke’s initial purchases at the sales were pacers, but “we’re about half-and-half now”. Simpson started out working for Murray Edmonds some 20 years ago and “learned a lot about trotters back then”. “We had good juveniles like Flip Flop and Sun Del so I was quite comfortable when Garry said he was going to buy more trotters.” Clarke began his working life as an apprentice boilermaker and had farms over the years before becoming a property developer, which he is pretty much retired from, aged 72. “I’ve always like the horses and when we lost Rick, I realized life was too short to not be living it to the full. “I like to be around the horses and I’ve got 70 acres at Hampden where they’re spelled with lots of room to move.” Clarke helps out Simpson around the stables at Forbury Park and he’s also gravitated to breeding. One of Clarke’s purchases at the sales in 2017 was Parama, a Bettor’s Delight colt from Nicky’s Ideal who cost $15,000. He’d won four of 11 races before Wyndham, where he raced in the Cup. Clarke also bought his sister Nikasa for $10,000 in 2018 and she won twice before a sale to Perth for about 10 times as much. Clarke has since bought the Western Ideal mare Nicky’s Ideal and bred colts by Art Major and A Rocknroll Dance and a filly by Sweet Lou. Clearly the game could do with a lot more Garry Clarke’s. - by Frank Marrion Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Ricky May is determined his career in the sulky is "not going to end like that". The "that" May doesn't want to be the final act of his storied harness racing driving career was almost also the final act of his life. Racing viewers Australasia-wide were stunned when May collapsed lifeless in the sulky when leading the Central Otago Cup driving A G's White Socks on January 2. When he fell to the track, the racing world held its breath.   May's heart stopped without warning, his official diagnosis later being hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. He lay motionless on the Omakau track, receiving CPR from junior driver Ellie Barron and was soon after treated by medics. But when the 61-year-old woke up in Dunedin Hospital two days later doctors told him he had probably been dead for 10 minutes that day. A few days later he had surgery to have a cardioverter defibrillator implanted, a device that delivers a shock through a wire which runs into a chamber of the heart and May will have it in his chest for the rest of his life in case his heart stops again. But two months on from that operation May hasn't needed the defibrillator yet and is hoping he never will. "The doctors told me if it was going to happen again it would most likely be in the first two months," May told the Herald. "So I am now going to get on with my life. "I feel good, almost back to normal. I have a few aches and pains from the fall and the operation but my energy levels are good." May is back working on his Methven farm but last week he started back at his other job. He jumped in the sulky and drove fast work. "It was good to do it again, but I was a little tentative just at the start," says the man who has won seven New Zealand Cups. "The doctors say I can go back to driving but they are a bit worried about the shaking and vibrations that can go through the body on a rougher surface. "So ideally they have said to start out slow and if possible maybe wait six months before I go back to race driving." So that is what May is planning to do. He admits he might be lured back earlier but at this stage he plans to be back driving in races next season, which starts August 1. "I want to be careful for a while and to be honest I wouldn't have too many good drives coming up in the next few months. "And I don't mind missing the winter racing," he laughs. But May will 100 per cent, as much as any of us can predict our futures, be back. "I have to go back to it because I can't let what happened be the way it ends. That wouldn't sit comfortably with me." The next great goal is obvious for a man who has driven 2949 winners in his domestic career. Joining Tony Herlihy and Maurice McKendry as the only 3000-win horsepeople (drivers or jockeys) in New Zealand is an honour May deserves. "I can go back to driving any time I want now, once I get a medical certificate which shouldn't be a problem. But I will wait and do it right. But I will be back. I am looking forward to getting back out there."   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    Unconventional training methods have helped Splash Cola reinvigorate her career and complete back-to-back wins in free-for-all company at Addington on Friday night. The veteran squaregaiter beat out a smart line up over 1980m, two weeks after downing a similar field to win the group 3 Summer Trotting Free-For-All for trainer Regan Todd and driver Robbie Close. Todd admitted he has taken some slightly unusual steps to get Splash Cola in career best form at the ripe age of 9yrs-old. “If anyone was at the beach and saw me work her they would think I was crazy,” the trainer said. “She had been getting way too keen in her work, so I have been galloping her on the lead.” Galloping a trotter on a lead rope behind a horse in a sulky is considered an old school training method. It is one Todd has used before, when working for Mark Jones. “It is something I have done before.” “When I was working for Mark we had Unique Star and we did it with him.” “He ran fourth in the Dominion at the time.” Splash Cola had missed a top three placing in her past seven starts before Todd changed her training regime. He has no plans to tinker with it any further following the brilliant results it has provided. “We definitely won’t be changing anything now.” Splash Cola’s winning form has upgraded her breeding resume for her Southland owner-breeder Ian Hunter. The Sundon mare’s back to back victories have also provided Hunter with some compensation after Splash Cola failed to get in foal in the spring. “She was served by Father Patrick quite late in the season and never got in foal,” Todd said. Staying on the track has allowed Splash Cola to crack $100,000 in lifetime stakes. The 9yr-old’s fast finish from three back on the markers posted her 11th career win to take her stakes tally to six figures. Todd has already beaten his previous best tally of wins for a season with five months still to go this term. He puts some of that success down to having a good crew of staff around him. Todd’s parents, Barry and Pam, have recently moved from Southland to Canterbury to be closer to the stable. Close is an integral part of Todd’s operation and is enjoying an excellent season in the sulky with 37 wins. The reinsman scored his first group win as a driver with Splash Cola, two weeks ago. The first of Friday night’s trotting features, the Sires Stakes Classique, was taken out impressively by Chloe Rose. The Nigel McGrath trained 3yr-old never gave her rivals a look in when leading from barrier 1 and going on to score by more than three lengths for driver Blair Orange. Tailored Elegance took second, ahead of Vacation Hill.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A wide draw looks the only thing that can stop Vacation Hill’s recent progress in tonight’s Sires' Stakes Classique at Addington. The Kevin Townley trained 3yr-old worked herself in to consistent form before being the first filly home in Cracker Hill’s Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton last weekend. The Muscle Hill trotter powered home stylishly, leaving rival Tailored Elegance in her wake, to run in to fourth group 3 feature. That effort not only continued her excellent run of top five placings, but showed how far Vacation Hill has come since first stepping out in August. “I was very pleased with her in the Hambletonian, she has come right at the right time with all of the good racing coming up,” Townley said. “I couldn’t be happier with her.” “It took her about five starts to get everything together and get organised and her last three have been really good.” Drawing the outside of the front line in barrier nine looks the biggest challenge Vacation Hill has in continuing her progression in tonight’s listed 1980m feature. “Its a very tough draw,” Townley said. “It will depend where she ends up from there.” “It is a nice crop of fillies and there is a nice bit of depth there.” “But, on what she has done I would think she up with any of them if things went her way.” Tailored Elegance disappointed when battling in to seventh in the Hambletonian Classic. Co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen reported on her stable’s website the wet Ashburton track could explain her filly’s flop. “Tailored Elegance was certainly disappointing last week when I was expecting a lot better, but the track was crap and that could have been the story.” “Actually she has had two starts on wet tracks and gone poor both times so back at Addington I would be expecting a lot better.” Tailored Elegance has a major draw advantage over Vacation Hill in barrier 3. The All Stars 3yr-old leading contender, Chloe Rose, inside her in barrier 1. Townley also starts Immer Besser in race 8. The filly ran a distant third behind impressive debutante Heroes Square at Addington last week. “Heroes Square really put us in our place last week,” the trainer said. “But, back to a normal looking maiden race this week she looks like she should be up to them and a nice chance.” Heroes Square will start from barrier 1 in another of tonight’s features at Addington, the Lazarus Stakes. Heroes Square’s main danger, Minstrel will start at the opposite end of the front line of the mobile in the 1980m event in barrier 6. Minstrel was brilliant in two spring runs in Southland, winning in smart times at Gore and Winton. The David and Catherine Butt trained 3yr-old showed he was ready to resume when beating leading 3yr-old One Change in a workout at Rangiora last week.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Natalie Rasmussen isn’t expecting Princess Tiffany to be gifted tonight’s $100,000 New Zealand Breeders Stakes at Addington. That doesn’t diminish her confidence the hot favourite can win and earn herself a trip to Sydney but it might not be the comfortable watch many punters expect. Princess Tiffany is $1.40 in the Breeders after returning from a long layoff by easily beating many of these last start over 1980m when she was able to stroll to the front and control the race. Rasmussen, who co-trains the multiple group one winner and will drive her, says Princess Tiffany has improved with that outing but she expects more early challenges tonight. “I don’t think the other drivers will just hand it to her this time,” says Rasmussen. “I think the two drawn inside her might be happy to trail but other horses like Wainui Creek, Step Up or Bettors Heart drawn wider might have a crack early. “So while I am confident she can win I might not be as easy as last time.” While multi punters or big players might be happy to take the $1.40 for Princess Tiffany others may look for different ways to make money out of the race, with the natural option looking to be Ivana Flybye at $2.20 a place drawn the ace. If Princess Tiffany is able to run straight to the front and stay there that could be good money but if Rasmussen is right and there is more early pressure than the Ivana Flybye trail and run second theory may not be so logical. If the market is right and Princess Tiffany does win then she will earn automatic entry into the A200,000 Ladyship Mile in Sydney on March 7 and she would head there to take on arch-rival Belle Of Montana. Rasmussen and partner Mark Purdon hold the key to most of the features at Addington tonight with Amazing Dream expected to continue her domination of the three-year-old fillies season in the $150,000 Sales Series Pace. “She is working really well and even if she doesn’t lead she should trail at worst.” Another Masterpiece is fresh up since the Auckland Cup on New Years Eve but has been working so well Rasmussen says she will not be scared to put him into the race from a wide draw, even though he meets some fit, hard-running rivals. But the $30,000 Trotters Free-For-All looks potentially more challenging for the All Stars with Marcoola and Valloria genuine threats to their pair of Enhance Your Calm and King’s Landing. “Our two are trotting well but it won’t be an easy race,” offers Rasmussen. “I’d favour Enhance Your Calm slightly out of our two.”   Michael Guerin

The curse of winning pacing’s greatest races has claimed its latest victim. New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac has been sidelined for the rest of the season by a fetlock injury and his entire career may now even be in doubt. The injury was revealed by trainer Mark Purdon yesterday with the one-time favourite for next month’s Miracle Mile still heading to Sydney, but for a four-month spell on the NSW property of one of his owners. “It is a fetlock issue and the kind of thing a lot of horses his age might get,” explains Purdon. “He is a horse who has raced at a very high level for a really long time and we hope he comes back but that won’t be until next season and we would know if he makes it back until after he has had his spell.” It is only three months today since Cruz Bromac, beautifully driven by Blair Orange, scored the greatest win of his career in the New Zealand Cup, adding it to the NZ Free-For-All he won the season before. He has also been hugely competitive in two Inter Dominion series, albeit his Final chances at both ruined by bad draws, and yet he is still a touch under-rated for a horse with 23 career wins and over $1 million in earnings. His last outing was in the Auckland Cup, where he finished fifth, before heading back to Canterbury to prepare for the Miracle Mile. Cruz Bromac joins an quite remarkable list of open class stars to be sidelined by injuries in the last 16 months dating back to Thefixer’s win in the 2018 New Zealand Cup. He has struggled on and off with hoof problems since and while he had a strong Australian summer last year, Thefixer hasn’t won a race this season and looks to be heading to the paddock because of his nagging foot issues. Turn It Up won that season’s Auckland Cup and had a good rest of his four-year-old season, winning the Jewels, but has missed the entire of this year because of injury. Spankem, who won last year’s Miracle Mile and finished second to Cruz Bromac in the NZ Cup, has also been sidelined although his prognosis sounds promising. And then Ultimate Sniper, who was unbeaten in the Inter Dominions in Auckland in December, broke down after the series and while he is expected to make it back to the track it means that almost every major group one pacing race winner for older horses in New Zealand in the past 16 months has succumbed to injury at some stage. “We have had a bad run with them but they are all different types of injuries so I am not sure what we can do about it,” says Purdon. “To be honest the only thing I can put it down to is how hard the horses race these days, they go so quick in every race.” Purdon will be hoping his latest star, Auckland Cup winner Self Assured, can dodge the curse after he return to winning form at Menangle last Saturday night. He sat parked to win in 1:50.3 as his lead to the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire on Saturday week, likely to be followed by the A$1 million Miracle Mile on March 7. Self Assured as beaten twice, albeit brave both times, in Victoria recently but Purdon thinks he is back to his best form and with strength to match his speed he may prove better suited to Menangle mile racing than many Kiwi pacers. The stable has Chase Auckland and Stylish Memphis, who Purdon is caretaker trainer for, racing at Menangle this Saturday as they are aimed at the Miracle Mile and NSW Oaks (February 29) respectively. Before then premier racing returns to Addington on Friday where Princess Tiffany is hot favourite to win the Breeders Stakes, victory in which would give her direct entry to the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle on March 7 and another shot at her arch nemesis Belle Of Montana. A G’s White Socks continues his Miracle Mile build-up in the A$50,000 Terang Cup on Saturday night while Kiwi trotters Massive Metro and Temporale tackle the A$50,000 Knight Pistol at Melton on Friday night.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    Trotting stallion Father Patrick got his New Zealand career off to a brilliant start when La Reina Del Sur won at Addington on Friday night. The All Stars filly notched her sire’s first win with his first starter when taking out the first 2yr-old trotters’ tote race of the season. La Reina Del Sur put in a late dive to nab runner-up Royal Del and deny sire Royal Aspirations from notching his first winner with his first starter. Scoring his first win in New Zealand was a mere formality for Father Patrick given the wave of success he has produced in North America. Nevele R Stud, who stand the stallion in Australasia via frozen semen, is delighted their son of Cantab Hall is on the board, general manager Ged Mooar said. “We are really happy.” “First starter, first winner and she was pretty professional.” “She is a beautifully bred filly and she had been trialling pretty well.” La Reina Del Sur is one of 28 New Zealand bred 2yr-olds by Father Patrick. If reports on his stock are accurate, the filly certainly will not be his only winner among them this season. “The feedback we are getting from his 2yr-olds is really positive,” Mooar said. La Reina Del Sur is from the talented former All Stars racemare Escapee and is bred and owned by Trevor Casey. Another of the progeny of Father Patrick and a talented former All Stars mare is among the tiny group of yearlings the sire will be represented by at this year’s national yearling sales. Just four Father Patrick yearlings will be offered – all of which will go through the ring in Christchurch. The stallion produced just 12 live foals in New Zealand in the 2018-19 breeding season, before his popularity skyrocketed in the Northern Hemisphere. A colt from Hot Pants, offered by Spreydon Lodge, which is also managed by Mooar, is among the draft. Colts from Kiwi Girl, Moment Of Beauty and a filly from Rosedorae will also be offered. The success of Father Patrick’s yearlings at sales in North America has been well documented after a full brother to star trotter Greenshoe sold for $US1,100,000 at Lexington, late last year. The first public offerings  Father Patrick’s Australasian yearling crop of this season went through the ring at last weekend’s Melbourne trotting sale. Four fillies sold at an average of $A36,875. Many more yearlings are set to be offered at next year’s yearling sale after Father Patrick served a what is thought to be a record book, this season, for a stallion standing via frozen semen. The book of 126 mares included a high number of quality producers, Mooar said. The sale of Always B Miki’s first crop of yearlings in New Zealand could bring more excitement to Nevele R Stud at the upcoming yearling sales. The stallion has 20 yearlings in the sale, with 14 being offered in Christchurch and six in Auckland. The stock of Always B Miki have been popular at yearling sales in North America and Australia, recently. His progeny that have sold at the recent Brisbane and Melbourne sales have fetched an average price of A$32,307.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Talented, but temperamental trotter War Admiral has given trainer Michael House an interesting ride leading in to his impressive first up win at Addington on Friday night. The 5yr-old produced a big win in his first start in House’s colours when holding out The Dominator in a hectic feature trot. War Admiral transferred to House’s barn after having his last start behind Sundees Son at the Harness Jewels for Southland trainer Tony Stratford. Since arriving, the trotter has tested the patience of House and his staff. “He is an interesting horse, I am only a recipient of all of the hard work Tony Stratford has done,” the trainer said. “He would have been an awful horse to have had for the first two years of his career.” “Tony must have done a fantastic job to get him to where he did and get him educated and raced up and getting him winning.” “He is just not an easy horse.” House credited his staff for helping War Admiral calm his wild tendencies since arriving in his stable. “My team has done a great job with him, the girls have spent a lot of time with him and made him really manageable.” “They all love him, they all think he is a cuddly teddy bear now.” “Wherever you go in this game there are horses that challenge you and he has been a horse that has challenged anyone that has worked with him.” War Admiral was sent north by his Southland owner-breeders Kenny and Jo Baynes with the hope he could take his career to a new level. “Kenny has great faith in the horse, he is the one pushing the barrow of the horse and you have got to admire the faith he has in him,” House said. Punters had no qualms about backing War Admiral in to a $3.50 win price despite the trotter giving away a race fitness advantage to his rivals. The Skyvalley trotter was fit and ready to win, meaning his fitness will not significantly improve following his victory. However, House expects general improvement through the horses manners and tractability.   “He was pretty ready,” the trainer said. “Overall, in the big scheme of things he will improve – we have got a couple of wee things to work on.”  “He is the sort of horse on the big tracks when they are going a bit he will be competitive.” Star performer Princess Tiffany added another group race to her glittering resume when easily winning the group 2 Premier Mares Championship on Friday night. Driver and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen secured a dream run in front for the returning 4yr-old after they speared to the lead at the start. Princess Tiffany reeled off a slick 26.6sec second last 400m to set her rivals an impossible task to catch her. The All Stars mare scored by a length over Bettor’s Heart. Step Up stuck on well for third after sitting parked.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Leading filly Spellbound will attempt to get her summer campaign back on track at Addington tonight. The Robert Dunn trained 3yr-old put in a performance too bad to be true when she tired from the 600m in Amazing Dream’s Sires Stakes Championship at Alexandra Park, last month. Spellbound was found to have been suffering from a virus, which did not show up leading in to the group 1 event. “It was one of those ones that was out of the blue – we couldn’t pick it,” Dunn said. “She was working great and she was eating great.” Spellbound returned to Dunn’s Woodend Beach stable after her northern campaign. The filly has pleased the trainer’s son, John, who manages the southern base and will drive Spellbound from barrier 8 in race 1.  “She seems really good now, Johnny is pretty happy with her,” Dunn said. “She will obviously need this race this week and then she has the Sales Series race in a couple of weeks.” “She has drawn out a bit, so I don’t think Johnny will be doing anything drastic at the start, he won’t want to knock her around.” The Dunn stable start two of the leading chances in race 8 in Spot On and Hayden’s Meddle. Spot On beat rivals Bettathanfast and Mongolian Cavalry at Addington last week. “He would have to be a great chance again, it is not much of a different field to last time,” Dunn said.  “He is just a nice horse all round.” Hayden’s Meddle comes in to the race after running second to his stablemate, Stars Tonight, in the Marlborough Cup.  Star mare Princess Tiffany will have her first start as a 4yr-old in tonight’s group 2 Premier Mares Championship. The All Stars filly has looked ready to resume when reeling off slick sectionals to win two trials leading in to her resumption.  Despite that, co-trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen is weary about the task in front of Princess Tiffany.  “She is really well and fit but I am worried about her lack of racing and I fear she could be vulnerable in the late stages because of that,” she said on her stable’s website.  “The leadup race that could have suited her is restricted to keep mares like her out of it.” Princess Tiffany opened the hot $1.40 favourite for the 1980m feature.  Father and son trainers Peter and Tom Bagrie start two of the main challengers to Princess Tiffany. Peter lines up Bettor’s Heart from barrier 12 and Pressed For Time starts from barrier 7 for Tom.  Though the mares do their trackwork together, they are difficult to compare as they are contrasting types.  “They are both class mares, I will say mine is the best and Dad will say his is the best,” Tom said. “It is hard to compare them, because they are different.”  “Pressed For Time is a great stayer and I think she would be able to sustain her speed for a long time.” “Bettor’s Heart is a sit sprinter that has got a bit tougher over time.” Bettor’s Heart stuck on well for second after she sat parked outside star mare Belle Of Montana in the group 1 Queen Of Hearts, three starts ago.  The 6yr-old then beat a moderate field at Alexandra Par,  before tuning up for tonight’s race with a solid fourth behind rival Enchantee at Addington, last week. “We were pretty happy with her run last week because she probably needed that run and she should improve a lot from it,” Bagrie said. Pressed For Time goes in to the Premier Mares Classic after making a perfect two-from-two start to her 4yr-old term. Though she is already a group 2 winner, tonight’s race will be her toughest career test. “Obviously there are some nice mares in there and we are optimistic that we will be able to measure up,” Bagrie said. “She has been working great with Bettor’s Heart.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    All Stars trotter Kings Landing will need to call on his class when steps out for the first time this season at Addington on Friday night. Each of his rivals will have a significant race fitness edge over the 5yr-old, when he starts for in a competitive 1980m feature trot. Kings Landing has looked to have thrived since his last start at the Harness Jewels when winning two trials and a workout ahead of his return from a decent winter spell. But, driver Tim Williams is weary that nothing quite gets a horse ready to take on a smart field like the benefit of race fitness. “His class is going to take him a wee way, but it is definitely not going to be easy taking on some of those seasoned horses first up.” “That would be the only concern.” “The way the draws have fallen, being preferential, that is in his favour.” “It won’t be easy, but if he got the right run and the race unfolded to suit, him he is definitely good enough.” The three horses drawn on the outside of the front line bring both class and race fitness to Friday night’s race. Pres The Belle will be looking to replicate the emphatic win she produced under the same conditions as her 1980m mobile victory in her first run after the Interdominions at Addington, last month. Destiny Jones drops massively in grade after producing a sound fifth in the group 1 National Trot at Alexandra Park in her last start. The 8yr-old has a slight draw advantage in barrier 7 over both Pres The Belle (8) and Great Things Happen (9). Great Things Happen should relish a return to mobile racing despite his draw. The 8yr-old was forced to chase from massive 60m handicaps in his two starts at the recent Nelson meeting. Tailored Elegance is in a similar position to Kings Landing – starting fresh up against race-hardened opposition in race 2 with Williams in the sulky. Though, it is not the class of her opposition that is the main concern ahead of her first start as a 3yr-old. It is how she will be able to negotiate a capacity field from barrier 7. “She has come back well, but being drawn out a little bit wide in a full field probably won’t make things easy,” Williams said. “She is another one that her class should take her a long way in there.” “She generally has good manners, so there is no reason why she shouldn’t go a really good race.” Williams will also combine with another fresh All Stars runner at Addington on Friday night in race 4. First starter Picture Me faces a similar assignment to his stablemate Tailored Elegance when he starts from barrier 12. “He is a little bit the same as Tailored Elegance – he is in a full field and has a tricky enough draw,” Williams said. “He is going to need the right suck in to it or to make a move.” “It is just going to depend on how the race is run from that draw.” “On his trials, he keeps putting his hand up, so on that he is a good chance.” Picture Me has won two Rangiora trials ahead of his debut and beat rival Chubby Checker in the latest of those. Williams has a standout book of drives at Friday night’s Addington meeting that includes strong eachway chances Cheezel (race 5) and Szybka Lane (race 8). The reinsman also combines with Lets Hustle (race 3), Red Hot Poker (race 9) and Peraki Reactor (race 10).  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Pukekohe mare Best Western is booked to fly to Christchurch next week for two black-type features but first she’ll head to Alexandra Park on Friday night. Her trainer, Jeremy Young, says last season’s Northern Oaks winner is nearing “cherry-ripe” status. “I’m happy with her; she’s working really well and seems very bright,” he said. “I want to have her cherry-ripe for the two Addington races, but she’s pretty close to the mark.” Best Western was an unlucky fourth last week after being held up before the passing lane when trailing a tiring leader. “She just got held up a little bit and there was a very slight snotty nose after the race. “But that’s cleared up now and isn’t a concern. “It had been 17 days since her New Years’ Eve run and I feel like last week has sharpened her up even more.” Complicating matters this week is a wide draw plus the fact her stablemate, On A Roll, is in the same race and has drawn decidedly better. “The stablemate will be going forward so I guess that means we’ll have to look to go back with Best Western.” On A Roll has been a bit of a surprise package for Young since coming north in the early spring. She was effectively ‘sacked’ by previous trainers, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, and arrived at Young’s with no great ambitions. “When we first got her up here from Mark’s, I thought she would be a C2 or C3 horse, maybe. “If we were lucky, we’d be able to get a bit of money for the owners. “But she ran second to Lulu Le Mans, then won one, and then placed a few more times. “So, I threw her in the Group races before Christmas against the best fillies and I thought the second run, especially, was excellent. “She was four-wide down the back and had no right to run fifth, but still battled on well.” It also gave Young and driver, Sailesh Abernethy, an insight in to how she is best driven. “Sailesh and I thought we’d try something different last week and let her roll along in front.” The result? A five-length win in a sensational 2.39.4 (1.56.6 MR). “She’s a funny horse in that she won’t outsprint anything, you’ve got to let her run the whole way. “I had Stylish Memphis here at the same time and she would beat On A Roll off her back every time because she had so much speed. “On A Roll is better off leading and rolling along or even sitting parked, so that’s how we intend to drive her this week and in the future. “More aggressively.” The Oaks races are now firmly in the plans for On A Roll. Rounding out Young’s team this week is Tommy Tukaa, who returns to Alexandra Park from back-to-back wins at Cambridge over the holiday period. “I know he only won at Cambridge, but I think he’s an ‘Auckland horse’ all the same. “Those wins will have given him a bit of confidence and his work has been a lot better since. “The draw is awkward this week but I would expect, just being on the fence the whole way, that he should be able to run in the first three.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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